Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) is the formalised and knowledge-based ex ante evaluation of planned policies in terms of their likely impacts on the different aspects of sustainable development (SD). This typically entails several steps including an analysis of the policy problem, the description of several options for change and the analysis and comparison of these options. The issues and priorities of SD vary in regard to the respective jurisdiction and socio-economic context.
SD has been widely accepted as a guiding principle. It takes into account environmental, social as well as economic issues with the intent of meeting the current needs of society without putting a constraint on future generations and not at the expense of other countries. Decisions must therefore be based upon their potential impacts on all of the above-mentioned dimensions. However, current decision-making processes fall short of sufficiently taking these aspects into consideration. The interests of future generations and actors from abroad are either not or not adequately represented in the appraisal. Moreover, the various dimensions are not equally balanced in decision-making processes. Short-term interests, the avoidance of economic costs and preserving the existing economic and societal structures are better represented than long-term benefits or new and innovative actors.
This study analyses options for the design of a Sustainability Impact Assessment for the OECD. In the past 20 years, many efforts have been made in the name of enhancing the integration of SD into the decision-making processes of private as well as public actors within OECD countries. As a result, the ex ante assessment of planned legislation has now become a standard procedure. The study reviews the experiences with SIA processes/tools in selected member countries with the aim of developing options for the application of SIA in the OECD context. The preconditions for evidence-based policymaking are excellent in view of the fact that the OECD traditionally justifies its course of action by providing evidence, data or good practices. An OECD SIA has the potential to foster interaction and coherence between its different policy domains and the output legitimacy of OECD activities.